This past week, the world lost one of its most influential peacemakers. A scholar and practitioner, Dr. Glen Stassen’s accomplishments range from participating in the de-escalation of Cold War tensions to the development of a ground-breaking approach toward conflict called Just Peacemaking. There are many others who have articulated his resume and global impact, but I want to take a moment to reflect on the impact Glen had on my life and development as a peacemaking practitioner and trainer. And, more than anything, my understanding of the life Jesus calls his people to live.
I had the honor of not only learning from Glen through his many writings, but as one of his students at Fuller Theological Seminary. Specifically, I participated in a course he taught on Just Peacemaking that was set in the context of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
It was remarkable.
I can remember the passion in this man who had given everything to take seriously the teachings of Jesus as he stood on the Mt of Olives. Standing on the same hill Jesus had 2000 years before, Glen taught through the passage where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because God’s people didn’t know the things that make for peace.
I can remember standing on the shores of the Galilee where Jesus not only called his first disciples, but announced the reality of a Kingdom where peace would not come through military might, but selfless sacrifice. As Glen discussed the radical call of the Jesus’ Community for the work of peacemaking, I couldn’t help but imagine Jesus smiling on the faithfulness of this servant.
I can remember sitting in a small cafe eating falafel in northern Israel where he spoke into my life and offered some of the soundest advice I had ever received around my future education and practice as a peacemaker.
Glen taught me that that Jesus’ life and teachings actually matter.
He taught me that Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount aren’t lofty ideals, but tangible practices that are be lived out in both the mundane and extraordinary of everyday life.
He taught me that peacemaking is far more costly discipleship that war-making.
He taught me that conflict isn’t a bad thing, but a dynamic opportunity for discipleship.
He taught me that Jesus didn’t call us to get even, but creative in love.
He taught me that peacemaking is not soft or euphoric, but subversive and costly.
He taught me that academia isn’t primarily designed to lead us to right thought, but right living.
Lastly, Glen’s most profound teaching didn’t come through his words, but his embodied practice. His daily life taught his “disciples” what following Jesus actually looked like.
As I reflect on the life and influence of this remarkable man, I’m both convicted and inspired. Now, often teaching peacemaking on the same soil in which I was taught (Israel/Palestine), I hope I can move forward with just a fraction of the humility, academic integrity and embodied practice as Glen.
Glen, you have done well. Your work mattered and will matter for years to come. Thanks taking seriously the life and teachings of Jesus and for offering a set of practices that allow us to join God in the world he is making.
Although the world lost one its leading peacemakers, I believe the influence of Glen’s life is only just beginning. May the world experience the impact of this peacemaker more than ever through the lives of those influenced by his faithful work and witness.
NOTE: It cannot be overstated how much Glen’s scholarship informs the work of The Global Immersion Project